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Review of The Lord of Opium

The Lord of Opium
by Nancy Farmer
High School     Jackson/Atheneum     412 pp.
9/13     978-1-4424-8254-8     $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-8256-2     $12.99

With the death of El Patrón at the end of The House of the Scorpion (rev. 11/02), Matt, the drug lord’s fourteen-year-old clone, has not only been reclassified as a human but has now been declared the Lord of Opium, the drug state carved out of the  borderlands between the United States and Mexico. Opium is under lockdown, and Matt must consolidate his power quickly to  deal with challenges to his authority from the United Nations, rival drug lords, and his own disgruntled subjects. Meanwhile, he is also determined to not only end the practice of using clones for slave labor but also — if possible — reverse the mind-control technology that bends them to his will. Moreover, he plans to use Opium’s biosphere, preserved because of its isolation from the rest of the  world, to regenerate Earth’s damaged ecology. Farmer introduces some vivid new characters to her already colorful cast, enlarges the scope of her world-building, and eschews the quest plot that characterizes most of her work for a more nuanced one of mystery and intrigue. Yet ethical dilemmas remain at the heart of this novel, and, if anything, become elevated because of Matt’s newfound power and responsibility. “Where did it all end? How much wickedness could you do in the service of good before it turned into pure evil?”  The landscape of dystopian literature has changed significantly since the first book, but this sequel is still a cut above the rest.

From the September/October 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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